In North Carolina and the rest of the United States, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission enforces laws against employment discrimination. Otherwise known as the EEOC, this agency has upheld anti-discrimination standards since its creation in 1964. Since then, several new laws have added more protections against workplace discrimination.
Who the laws protect
It’s important to note that the EEOC doesn’t help protect against every form of discrimination. Not all forms of employment discrimination are illegal. For instance, the EEOC has nothing to say about whether employers may refuse to hire someone because of visible tattoos. However, the organization does enforce anti-discrimination laws related to the following traits:
- Skin color
- National origin
- Age over 40 years
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
When the laws apply
The forms of discrimination listed above are illegal at every stage of employment. This includes:
An employer can’t pay someone less based on having any of the protected traits. Similarly, they can’t fire someone for having a protected characteristic. For example, if an employer finds out that you follow a specific religion and fires you in response, they’re breaking the law.
Relevant anti-discrimination laws still apply in situations with at-will employment. Employers may only fire people for legal reasons.
Nonetheless, the laws don’t always protect employees. For instance, some forms of discrimination are legal in companies with a small number of workers. In those cases, the EEOC can’t intervene. Sometimes, otherwise illegal discrimination is permissible if an employee’s protected trait makes them unqualified to perform necessary job functions.
The laws are complicated. It can be difficult to determine whether an employer has discriminated illegally. If you believe that your employer has engaged in illegal discrimination, you might benefit from seeking a lawyer’s guidance.